Misplaced Gratitude

Have you every heard someone say they are blessed or that they are thankful for something?  This time of year, you probably are hearing that a lot.  There is something about the Thanksgiving holiday that makes people feel sentimental and think about what is right about their lives.  However, have you ever stopped to wonder if they know by whom they have been blessed or to whom they should be thankful? 

James 1:17 (New International Version) tells us that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  The good things in our lives were given to us by our Creator God.  If we are blessed, it is because God blessed us.  If we have things to be thankful for, it is because God gave us those things.

Sometimes I think that our gratitude is misplaced.  We feel blessed because we did a good job at something.  When things are going the way they should, we are thankful because of the circumstances.  What we do and our circumstances are not the true sources of gratitude.  If we leave God out of our thanksgiving, who is left to thank but ourselves?  That is misplaced gratitude.  It is a prideful, self-centered sort of thankfulness.  We have nothing that has not come from God.  We are nothing that is not enabled by God.   

To just be thankful without knowing to whom you should be thankful is meaningless.   We need to give credit where credit is due:  to God.  God deserves our gratitude.  He deserves the glory for every good and perfect give that has been given. 

Clear the Swamp

My community used to be part of the Great Black Swamp.  Early settlers avoided this area because it was uninhabitable. Many of us living in this community had ancestors that painstakingly cleared that swamp to make our community habitable. 

Today, we are faced with a swamp of a different nature.  As a psychologist and mental health counselor, I have frequently observed that what appear to be normal, nice people, when elected to public office, become power hungry and corrupt.  As Lord Acton famously stated, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Knowing what I know about human nature, this should not surprise me.  Yet it almost always still does. 

As voters, we often do what we think to be our duty by casting our vote on election day.  We then leave our elected officials to their own devices.  This creates a local swamp, making our community uninhabitable again.  That swamp begins to make decisions for itself and not for we the people.  That swamp can only be made habitable again when the voting public holds their elected officials accountable. 

It is time we started attending the meetings of our public officials.  If we can’t attend meetings, we need to start reading the meeting minutes.  We need to start asking our elected officials questions, sometimes tough questions.  We need to demand transparency. We need to find out what goes on behind the scenes.  What are their political and social connections, and why are those connections important?  What causes are they involved in?  We need to share what we discover with others. 

Our ancestors cleared a physical swamp.  We need to clear a political swamp.  It’s up to us.  It won’t get cleared up on its own.  We have to become informed and invested in the process beyond just a day in May and a day in November.  We need to hold our elected officials accountable for their decisions every day.  It’s time to make our community habitable again.  Tap into the strength of your ancestors.  Clear the swamp. 

What is God’s Will for My Life?

If you’ve ever wondered what God’s will for your life is, I have the answer.  Well, I don’t have the answer.  The answer comes from God’s Word, and it’s pretty clearly stated in Ephesians 1:4-6. 

Ready?  The answer is that you were chosen:

  • To be holy and blameless before God
  • To be adopted as God’s child
  • To the praise of his glorious grace

So what is God’s will for you life?  Let’s go over it again.  God’s will is that you be holy and blameless before Him because you’re His kid, and this brings Him glory. 

There is no great mystery.  It really is that simple.  Obey God, knowing He loves you as a Father, because it brings God glory for you to do this. 

Simply put: God’s will is that you bring Him glory as His child by how you live your life.

To Know Christ More Deeply: Matthew 3-4

Welcome to Day 2 of my walk through the Gospels to become more deeply acquainted with Christ.  This time I read through Matthew 3 and 4.  This is what I discovered:

Jesus is…

  • The Lord
  • Mighty and able to baptize not only with water but the Holy Spirit and Fire
  • God’s beloved Son
  • Someone God is pleased with
  • Worthy of worship

Christ’s coming was planned, the answer to the wrath to come.  In obedience to God’s plan, Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. 

Jesus will separate the wheat from the chaff. 

Jesus was able to be tempted and experience physical things like hunger.   However, he was able to resist temptation because He knew the Word of God.  He knew that we live by the words that come from the mouth of God. 

These are just a few things I noticed. Certainly, my observations are not comprehensive.  They are what I observe as I try to grow more in my relationship with Christ.  One thing I noticed was that, again, we are reminded that Jesus is worthy of worship, just like I observed in Chapters 1 and 2. 

I heard a televangelist the other day say that Christ came to make us have a good life.  I’m not certain she has read even just the first four chapters of Matthew if that’s why she thinks He came.  One thing is clear: Christ was the answer to the wrath of God that we all would face. I think we underestimate just how much wrath was coming our way but for Christ.

Much of what I am learning about Christ so far is about Him: his power, might, obedience to God’s plan, righteousness, and purpose.  So far, the book of Matthew has been all about God and His redemptive plan fulfilled through His beloved Son. In fact, even John the Baptist acknowledged that it was about Jesus and not about John.  To extrapolate that thought out a bit more, it’s about God, not about me.

Humanism is a worldview that focuses on man. I really think the church has been so influenced by humanism that people think that God and His plan revolves around them. This is dangerous thinking. If what God does revolves around me, then I am the glorified one.

That’s backward. Christ came for a purpose. He experienced life as a human for a reason. He came to fulfill all righteousness in obedience to God’s plan to save His children from the coming wrath. God is glorified whether I experience a “good life” or not!

Bottom line: because of all that Jesus is, He is worthy of worship. 

To Know Christ More Deeply: Matthew 1 – 2

My pastor challenged us to get to know Jesus, really get to know Him, not just know about Him.  He suggested we start in the Gospels. So I thought I would take some time to know Christ more deeply by getting more deeply acquainted with Who Scripture says He is.  Here is what I learned from Matthew 1 and 2: 

Jesus is…

The Son of David, the Son of Abraham

The Son of a virgin who conceived by the Holy Spirit

He was born in Bethlehem, his family fled to Egypt, and He was raised in Nazareth.

Jesus is…

Jeshua – the Lord is salvation

Immanuel – God with us

The King of the Jews

A Ruler

The Shepherd of Israel

Worth of Worship

God’s Son

I have always been drawn to His name “Immanuel”.  The truth of God being with us is so very powerful.  Jesus had a purpose for being here.  His genealogy and birth was planned very carefully and purposefully, and He came at just the right time.  Why?  Because God loves us.  He prepared His Son, Jesus, to be many things including king, ruler, shepherd, and salvation.  And what does all this mean to me?  Jesus is worthy of my worship.  And I haven’t even made it to Matthew 3 yet! 

Not Randomly Assigned at Birth

To Lilly, A Medicine Company, who has a inaccurate commercial claiming our bodies were randomly assigned at birth.  We were NOT randomly assigned bodies at birth.  God designed us to be who we are before we were born.  We are not here by chance.  God gave us our bodies on purpose, for a purpose. 

Psalm 139 (New International Version)

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

What is God Trying to Teach Me?!

Today, the springs on our garage door broke, incapacitating the garage door and opener.  Thank God that my car was not parked inside!  It wouldn’t be such a huge deal except that this is just another broken thing in a long line of breaking things!

First, my bathroom vanity lights went out.  We have yet to be able to figure out, without the help of an electrician at least, how to get those back on.  Then our front door light went out.  Apart from purchasing a new one, this fixture seems irrevocably broken. 

Next, the water softener began making very loud noises in the middle of the night.  Thankfully, that was replaced at no little expense. 

Next, the washing machine began sounding like a jet engine ready for take-off.  Yet another appliance to replace and more money out the door. 

My husband’s brother, who has Down Syndrome, put a plastic lid down our toilet causing it to plug and creating a plumbing issue. 

Then, our dishwasher, which we had actually just replaced under warranty due to the first one being a lemon, started leaking all over our carpet.  This less than a year old appliance had a seal that was broken.  Parts are on order with no ETA as to when that will get fixed.  There seems to be a parts shortage currently.  Something about a chip…

And now the garage door. 

My mom asked me what I thought God was trying to teach me. 

I replied, “Perhaps He wants me to learn how to be an appliance repairman?” 

It reminds me of a joke I heard Patsy Clairmont make once.  She said, “When Jesus said in this world you will have trouble, He wasn’t kidding.” 

I guess in the grand scheme of things, these many issues are not all that bad.  Events in my life could be a lot worse!  Being able to come up for air every now and again might be nice though, especially after the year that was 2020! 

What is God trying to teach me?  It’s not a hard lesson.  It’s something I know already and just need to be reminded of.  I need to turn my eyes on Him.  Look full into His face.  Then these crazy material issues “will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace” (Lemmel, 1922)! 

Oh, and maybe I should bookmark a few good DIY appliance repair websites. 

Reference

Lemmel, H. H. (1922).  Turn your eyes upon Jesus. https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Turn_Your_Eyes_upon_Jesus/

Law Boxes or Faith

Do you live in law boxes or in relationship with Christ? There is a huge difference. Once represents dead faith. The other represents life and freedom.

Let me explain. Many believers claim to have faith in Christ, yet they keep trying to go back to law to earn favor from God. Their focal point becomes doing things that give the appearance of being good. Life becomes a list of do’s and don’ts…rules upon rules. The more rules you follow, the more holy you become. Self-righteousness becomes the modus operandi for being right before God. Setting your hope on the flesh in this manner leads to death (cf. Romans 7, 8; Galatians 2:15-21).

The opposite is true when you put your faith in Christ, truly in Christ alone. When your focal point is Christ, the Holy Spirit does the work to grow and change you. The closer you grow to Christ, the more holy you become. God does the work to make you righteous. We are given life and peace…grace upon grace. If the Spirit of God dwells in you, you belong to Christ and are conferred His righteousness (cf. Romans 7, 8; Galatians 2:15-21).

One way is self-righteousness. The other is Christ’s righteousness. One way is living in law boxes. The other way is living in freedom. One way is death. The other is life.

Do you want to live in a box or in the freedom that comes in Christ? True holiness comes from grace not law keeping. Live a life with your faith in your own self-righteousness is a losing battle. You will never get there. The only thing you will become is really good at being a Pharisee.

Get out of your law boxes and live by faith in Christ. To live is Christ.

Acknowledgement: I’d like to thank Jesse Caro from United Baptist Church in part for inspiring these thoughts because of his faithful preaching of God’s Word!

Chili’s Bar & Grill: The Anti-American Place

After waiting in our car for 15 minutes for a text from the restaurant saying our table was ready, our bare-faced family traipsed into the hostess station.  We were greeted–not sure if it was with a smile because everyone is masked–and led to our table.  We were given a plastic card with “specials” on it and told to use a code to view the full menu.  We asked to be able to view real menus instead.  As menus were brought to us while we are seated at a table, we were asked if we needed masks. 

“No,” my husband said.  “It that a problem?”

The man said that it was indeed a problem, and he was more than happy to get us masks unless we had exemptions.  At this point, the entire restaurant is now looking at us.  The man is relishing the attention because it is obvious he feels great pride in “confronting” bare-faced rebels to educate them about the governor’s mask mandate.  In fact, as we leave the restaurant (we CANNOT give our business to anti-American places), he brags about the governor’s mandate and how he is following it.

I must tell you.  One of the people I am with is hearing impaired.  He can hear within the box of speech but must be able to see your lips to fully process what you are saying.  When people wear masks, he has trouble communicating.

Is that anyone’s business? 

No. 

However, government mask mandates have made it so that now it is everyone’s business.  In order to communicate with my own loved one freely in public without having to tell him something five times before finally pulling down a mask to enable him to understand me, I must now broadcast to everyone within hearing distance that he has a disability, or I will be forced to wear a mask.  This is anti-American. 

Americans have spent so much time fighting for the rights of the disabled.  For what?  Do all the advances that have been made just go out the window?  Apparently. Everything that has been accomplished has been set back decades by the medical tyranny of governors that has become the “new normal” of today.  This is unconstitutional. This is anti-American. 

So Chili’s Grill & Bar at 9886 Old US-20, Rossford, Ohio, congratulations!  You are officially an anti-American restaurant who does not really care about your customers…at least not those with a disability!  What part of “no mask, don’t ask” don’t you understand?  Congratulations on the business you have lost because you were willing to either force us to acknowledge my son’s disability to a restaurant full of strangers or leave the premises.

Warning to Consumers:  If you go to Chili’s Grill & Bar in Rossford, Ohio, and you have a disability, you will be made to acknowledge it to a restaurant full of strangers or be discriminated against and asked to leave the building!